I (Tina) recently bought two Pol-line queens, hoping to add some great new genetics to my bees. I pulled nucs for them both, since that is so much surer as a way to introduce a new queen…get them accepted by a nuc, then insert the nuc into the full colony. I pulled the first nuc the day before the queens were to arrive, so they had been queenless for one full day before I put her cage into the hive. Unfortunately, the nuc was from a mean colony, but it was the one in my yard most able to give up a few frames of bees and brood. Mean bees are harder to get to accept a new queen.

When I introduced the queen cage, the bees immediately balled it. You can tell the difference between a bunch of bees excited to see a new queen, and a ball of violent killers by two things. One, the size of the ball. A huge bunch of bees are aggressive, a moderate bunch of bees are just excited to see her. Two, aggressive bees bite the cage and often hold their abdomens in curved sting posture.

I almost never do a candy release. The bees can get through that candy way too fast, and this was soft candy. So, I already had a piece of masking tape over the candy to slow them down. I was thanking my lucky stars that I hadn’t cut the tiny slit in the tape that helps the bees get through it. I pressed down the edges of the tape well, and put her cage right on a brood  frame.

With the second queen, I also pulled a nuc, a bigger one this time, and from a colony of nice bees. These bees were just excited to see their new queen, but just to be safe, (since I didn’t have any tape with me) I put a plastic cap over the JZBZ queen cage and that soft candy.

After 4 days, I checked both of the nucs, and neither showed any more aggression to their queens, so I gave the bees access to the candy, which should mean another day or two before she’s out.

Since queen substance is passed by touch, not scent, and the bees can’t really touch the new queen very well, they almost always start their own queen cells, even though there is a caged queen in the colony. I have learned the hard way that it is difficult to see those little queen cells covered with lots of happy nurse bees, so I’m very thorough about seeking them out. I blow the bees off of every frame, including honey frames, and really look for queen cells, and cut them out very well, not just taking the wax off from over the larval queens, but scooping them out so they can’t be repaired.

After 5 more days I checked both nucs again, expecting to see fresh eggs and hatched larvae in both. Not so! Both had re-started queen cells with too-old larvae. In the first one I checked, the big nuc with nice bees, I looked very carefully for eggs or larvae and could find none. I cut out the intercaste queen cell and combined with the colony next door, which also had a new queen, but needed more bees.

When I checked the small nuc with mean bees, and saw two new queen cells, I was so disgusted that I just closed it up and walked away to give myself time to decide what to do with them. I called a friend who also had two new Pol-line queens. She had tossed hers in nucs as well, but gave the bees access to the candy and went on vacation after cutting out the queen cells. When she came back, she also found more new queen cells, but also found her new queens laying well and apparently happy.

After hearing her story, I went back out and checked my mean nuc with the two new queen cells. Sure enough, there was my nice new, red queen, having laid just a few eggs and with just a few just-hatched larvae. The larvae were so full of jelly, I had to look really closely to be sure that it wasn’t just jelly with no baby. So glad I called my friend! The two queen cells were just fine, getting ready to emerge, since the nurses had removed the wax covering the tips of their cells. Why hadn’t the new queen killed them? What was she thinking?

I pulled the queen cells out to a mating nuc (even though they’re mean, and probably intercaste, but they were normal-sized) and marked my new girl. So exciting!

Moral of the story…talk to your bee friends about what is going on, and pay attention. And, never give up… never surrender. Those darn bees don’t read the book!

The Traveling Road Show is a benefit from the Colorado State Beekeepers Association to affiliated clubs. CSBA will pay for time and travel expenses for an experienced beekeeper to visit your club and do an in-apiary day with club members. One of the comments heard most from participants is how much more confidence they feel after all that they learned and saw during the day.

I (Tina) was privileged to visit one of our Colorado bee clubs last week and do a Road Show for them. Their leadership had lined up three apiaries for the group and I to visit. The really cool thing about visiting three different apiaries is that the likelihood of seeing a wider variety of issues is very good. Also, people have different ideas about how to set up hives, where to place apiaries, and we learn neat tips about all kinds of things in beekeeping that one person alone might never think about.

In the first apiary we visited, there were several hives, all in different places in their development and growth. The two hives selected for inspection both happened to be queenless. The first one had just a bit of capped worker brood remaining, and barely a remnant of an emerged queen cell, and a remnant of a virgin-killed queen cell, so everyone got to see what both of the cells look like, and, we got to talk about how an understanding of bee math helps us decipher the clues we find in the hive. In this case, we could be fairly certain that there would be a brand new virgin queen running around in there. She would need two weeks to mate and get to laying well. The proper beekeeper response… ask the bees by placing a comb with very young larvae from another hive to see if they would start raising a new queen or not. This also helps keep the colony from going laying worker quite as soon if the virgin does not return from her mating flight.

In the other queenless colony we found queen cells! Unfortunately, there was no other capped brood at all, no worker brood, no drone brood, no open brood, only three queen cells. Again, bee math gave us the answer… the ever-hopeful bees were attempting to make queens from unfertilized eggs laid by workers. We talked about the options here: we could give them a sheet of open brood from another colony to help stop the laying worker impulse, and then buy them a mated queen, or we could just combine the colony with another colony. This gave us the opportunity to talk about methods to get a queen accepted in a colony that has been queenless for quite a long time, a very difficult proposition.

In the second apiary, the beekeeper requested that we find and mark her new queen, so we got to talk about how to find the queen. Then we actually found her with no trouble, and marked her so that she can be found more easily, her age can be instantly known, and if an unmarked queen suddenly shows up, we know that a supercedure has been accomplished by the bees in the beekeeper’s absence.

The second hive was expected to just need a super, since it had been visited recently, was a new split moved from another yard, and was pretty full of bees. As we started our inspection, we found several open and capped queen cells, some good capped worker brood, lots and lots of drones, and no eggs. Some five-day-old larvae gave us hope that the queen might still be present, though very ready to swarm. Only a nuc box was available, as far as equipment, so a Reverse Doolittle split (where you make a fairly even split, and you don’t have to find the queen, but she gets moved to a  new location, otherwise known as a fly-back split) was out of the question. We would have to actually find the queen in this very-full colony with so many drones! We set a completely empty box on the bottom board, and started brushing bees off of each and every frame over a queen excluder. There were two 8-frame hive bodies, and we shook all 16 frames. The queen was on the last one, a honey frame, next to the wall. We put her in the nuc box with lots of nurse bees, food frames, emerging brood, and room to lay, and the beekeeper gave her new nuc to one lucky observer! We cut off the capped queen cells and selected two open cells with same-sized larvae to leave in the colony (thereby stopping any after-swarms). Whew! Pretty exciting work, especially since it started raining while we were working, and someone had to hold an umbrella over me and the bees.

In the third apiary, thankfully, we didn’t have major issues to discover. In one, a new queen had been accepted and was laying well. The last hive of the day was a long Langstroth that needed just a bit of management, making sure that the queen would not be honey-bound. This was a nice opportunity for many who might never have seen a long Lang in use. We added a bit of sugar water and moved some frames with foundation into place so that they bees could draw more brood comb.

It was a great variety of bee stuff to see, and a very satisfying day for all. We had about enough for one day, but there was still more fun to be had. I had gone up a day early and done a queen-rearing seminar for the club leadership (they paid for the extra day so that they could have both events), and we needed to check on our grafts. I’ve seen plenty of queen rearing classes, and never have seen anyone actually get any takes… until that day! We had lots of queen cups with accepted larvae in them, and tons of royal jelly in their own nucs that participants had brought. Now the leaders in that club will be able to produce queens to help their club be more sustainable, and also will be able to teach others to raise queens. It was a great finish to a great day!

Every CSBA affiliated club can have a Traveling Road Show or a queen rearing seminar. Just contact me at [email protected] to schedule your event. We have several experienced beekeepers to choose from to lead your Road Show. Thanks!  T

A bee club member called the other day, asking for help figuring out why his colony was weak. He hadn’t been in it recently, but when last checked, it seemed strong, and now it was down to about 3 frames of bees. Diagnosis always starts with history, so I asked how old the queen was.. she is two, so this is her second spring build up. We removed the frame next to the sidewall, and it had crystallized honey on it. Then we went right to the one in the center of the circle of bees on the tops of frames, where the queen should be, and there she was, a nice, big, fairly fat queen. There was mixed ages of open larvae on the frame…eggs next to large larvae, next to newly emerged larvae; not in the customary half circles of similarly aged larvae.

The larvae appeared dry. On the next frame, there was a lot of open larvae, with one capped, one brown, all looking dry and ill-fed. On the final frame, also open larvae, some brown, a couple of double eggs in cells, all dry and ill-fed, and not aadult bees at all on  the frame. To this point, we had seen no fresh bee bread nor any fresh nectar in cells. I started thinking that they were starving, and maybe feeding would solve the problem, of maybe with a new queen (the larvae aren’t supposed to be of mixed ages like that), and they certainly needed more bees.

In the top box, there was one frame with bees on it, and it was all fresh bee bread and nectar. In fact, there were 5 frames up top with fresh nectar and bee bread, and none down in the brood chamber. The first obvious thing to do was to cut them down to a single brood box so that the few bees could control the temperature and humidity properly, while fresh food would be right next to the brood and cluster.

Adding up the rest of the clues, we decided that it was possible that although there were no queen cells nor even a remnant of an emerged queen cell, the fact that there was only open brood with a dramatically reduced population might mean that this was a supersedure queen. The beekeeper felt doubtful, since she was larger than he might expect for a new queen, but she wasn’t super-fat, and after 10 days of laying, I thought she could be that size.

It takes 5 weeks from egg to laying, and then 21 days more to emerged brood, which would account for the reduced population. It is not uncommon for the bees to preserve the lower brood chamber for the brood, while placing stores up above, which could account for the configuration and lack of feeding of larvae. The beekeeper had recently done a split in his other colony, and both sides of it looked perfect, so we didn’t want to bother either one of them too much, but decided that the best way he could boost population was to move a sheet of emerging brood from the just -split colony to the weakling, without any adult bees. In 5 days, the emerged bees will be old enough to feed larvae, and this won’t be too disruptive nor costly to the donor colony.

If a split had not just been done in this yard, a very easy solution would be to switch the positions of the weak colony with the swarm-ready colony, as it would serve the needs of both. When separated from the foragers (they’d be in the weak colony now) the old queen is not thinking of swarming. Those foragers who would move right into the weak colony that was in the place of their strong colony would boost the population and the stores so much that the larvae would be fed, and the population could recover. Adding up clues, it is a fun and important part of beekeeping.  T

This is splitting/ swarm control season across the state. I recently found a colony with queen cells in progress, and what looked like 50% drones among the adult bees, making it impossible to find the queen. This is no longer a stressful situation, since the Reverse Doolittle (or Fool-Proof Split) written about previously in this column, makes it so easy to quickly perform a no-problem split in a very populous colony. I won’t re-write it here, since you can go back and read it, but did want to draw your attention to the fact that this type of split affords you the golden opportunity to do mite control with Oxalic acid on both parts of the split, dropping mites just when their populations are really climbing along with the burgeoning bee population.

As you recall, oxalic acid should only be used when there are no brood cappings in the colony, since it doesn’t penetrate the cappings, and since a minimum of 75% of reproductive mites are under cappings at any one time. Since in the Fool-Proof Split, we put the open brood in the box with the queen, an oxalic acid treatment can be done soon after the split (a day or two later). The capped brood that was left in the parent colony at the original location will all emerge before the new queen is finished mating. A little more time for her to start laying well, and before the new larvae get capped leads us to do the OA treatment on this colony on about day 30 after the split.

Thanks to Journeyman candidate Eric Nudelman for this easy-to-read calendar of events…

Here’s a timeline for what is happening in the parent colony, with action items.

Day 1: Nothing happens

Day 2: The bees start Queen with 4 day old larvae; Do OA treatment on new colony

Day 7: Inspect both colonies, queen and eggs in new, capped Q cells in parent

Day 12: add sheet of open brood to queenless box – this could prevent a laying worker situation

Day 14: Queen emerges

Day 20-23: Queen mates

Day 21: worker brood emerges

Day 24: drone brood emerges

Day 25-27: Queen starts laying

Day 26-33: This is the zone for OA treatment,  ~30 days

Day 34: new brood gets capped

You’ve seen the list of benefits of being a member of CSBA, but what does all of that mean to you as an individual beekeeper? Why do you want to belong to CSBA? Here are the reasons my club is affiliated, and through them, I am a member… Very high on my list of reasons is politics. I really don’t like politics, don’t trust politicians, and don’t want to be forced to try to monitor what is happening in the world of politics and bees. However, politics is important to our bees. This is where regulations are made that affect how poisons (otherwise known as pesticides) are used in our world and on our food.  Governing bodies also make rules regarding whether we can even keep bees, where we can do so, how many we can keep, how we move them, how we sell honey and products from the hive, and so on. We need someone watching out for us, our bees, our food, and our livelihoods, and that is one thing CSBA does for us. Even when we have a board of directors who aren’t particularly politically involved, our legislators know where to find information and help on these questions because CSBA exists. Also, when we as individuals each put a little bit of money in the pot, then CSBA can financially support other organizations that are affecting politics in our region, like Pollinators and People Action Network, The Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Beekeeping Federation, and the American Honey Producers Association.

Just as an example, the last time I tuned in to honey politics, both the ABF and the AHPA were working with the government to reduce the amount of fake honey coming in that reduces the price of our real honey. This is important! There was also a labeling question: the government was trying to make honey labels say, “added sugars” when there is not added sugar in honey. Just this reason is enough for me to always make sure that I support CSBA financially through my local bee club. Our legislators know these are important questions, because our membership numbers say that there are a lot of us beekeepers. Both regional clubs and the state beekeepers association need those numbers of registered members, they give us beekeepers a real voice in important decisions that affect us and our bees. Every person counts!

Likewise, because of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association, there is a great web page where really good information can be found by beekeepers, and by the general public. When someone is having an issue with “bees” (whether they are actual bees or wasps) they look online for a solution, and they find the answers they need, and contacts for the people who can take care of the bees quickly and easily. This is where the state supported swarm hotline comes in (and it isn’t cheap). CSBA doesn’t tell my club how to run their swarm hotline, but directs callers to our dispatcher. I know this works, because I get calls that should go to a club that isn’t on the hotline because they aren’t affiliated. I also get more calls from people in my area who found my contact information on the CSBA web site, although my regional bee club has a great web page and two Facebook pages.

When a beekeeper needs to find a source of nucs in their area, or a beekeeper to speak at a school or public event, they look online and CSBA comes right up. And, because you belong to CSBA, you help support this source of information, and you get to take advantage of the fact that there are people who volunteer for the state bee association to answer the phone, so you don’t have to. We also have volunteers who organize those speakers for schools and events. We have lists of speakers to help groups find the education they need, whether they are beekeepers or non-beekeepers. Without me or you, the CSBA would still be there, the website would still be there, but we would be taking advantage of it without contributing, and I hate to be called a free-loader! The promotion of bee and pollinator health is an important function of both the Colorado State Beekeepers Association, and your regional bee club.

Education is another thing that a bee club provides for its members. I enjoy and learn a lot from my local bee club, but there is even more that can be had from CSBA. At our summer meeting, we have great speakers on subjects your local club might not think about, and with speakers that the local club might never have heard of or might not be able to afford. We also do cool, fun, and important hands-on workshops available to everyone at the summer meeting. Where else can you see a bee hospital yard and learn about how to recognize bee diseases and what to do about them? Remember learning to mark queens a couple of years ago, practicing on someone else’s drones? These events are at very low cost to members, so there is a financial advantage as well.

Another way the state bee association supports your local bee club in education is with the Traveling Road Show. My local club does hands-on workshops in bee hives, but it is great that CSBA will send someone to further our education, or teach us to raise queens, which is the option my bee club has chosen for this summer. It is really good to hear a different point of view, from someone with different experiences than bee club leadership might have. There is so much to learn! Why would we limit ourselves to just our bee club president? (And why should that person have to do all the work?)

Through CSBA, we have the Colorado Master Beekeepers Program. This is a great educational opportunity available only to members of CSBA, and lots of fun besides. Through it, our state gains better beekeepers and healthier bees, and well-educated regional bee club members, a real benefit for all of the beekeepers in all of the clubs that have members participating. One valuable benefit of membership in CSBA is the scholarship program, whereby each affiliated club can nominate members from their club for a scholarship. Each club gets one-time scholarships for each of the four levels in the Master Beekeeper Program (not 4 scholarships each year for each club, just 4 scholarships one time per club). Many clubs have not taken advantage of this benefit, so there are a lot of scholarships left. If you are interested, apply for nomination with your bee club Board of Directors.

I could go on and on about how we help your regional bee club and why it is important for each beekeeper in the state of Colorado to belong to CSBA, but you can see that big, long list for yourself, and just the points I’ve made here are plenty of reasons to make sure your regional club is affiliated with CSBA, or to join as an individual if necessary. Regional bee clubs need to have their new 2022 member rosters sent in to our secretary by April 1st so we can take registrations for the upcoming summer meeting in Rifle. We are also being forced to cull our mailing list, so if you don’t want to miss the twice monthly newsletters and beekeeping tips, better get on the list!


So you want to be a beekeeper! You’ll do your part to save the bees, and you’ll have honey on your toast every morning, right?

My name is Ed Colby. I’m the president of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association (2016-2020) and a longtime columnist for Bee Culture magazine. Now take a deep breath, please, because before you get started. I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

First, the bad news: There is nothing on Earth easier than failing at beekeeping.  By “failing” I mean allowing your bees to die.

Beekeeping requires some fundamental knowledge about honey bees and how to care for them. Short of working for a commercial beekeeper, the best first step for a beginner is to take a course taught by a competent teacher. In Colorado, lots of regional bee clubs, plus universities like Montana State and Penn State, teach such courses, either in-person or online. But a little education still isn’t going to be enough to get your bees through their first year. Beekeeping requires time-consuming dedication.  Getting bees is not like getting a kitten. If your bees are to live and thrive, you’re going to have to do some work.  In the summer this means checking on your bees every 10-14 days. You might like to take vacations, but your bees do not. If you place a hive in your backyard and don’t take care of it, you’re not “saving the bees.” You’re killing them, because parasitic Varroa mites will eat them alive, creating wounds that vector the transmission of deadly viruses.

Varroa mites are an invasive species relatively new to the United States. All bee hives in the U.S. harbor them. These reddish, pinhead-sized critters normally attach themselves to the undersides of adult bees, so they’re pretty hard to spot. There are ways to determine if mite populations have reached levels that threaten the health of the hive, but they are time-consuming and require not only education but a can-do determination on the part of the beekeeper. None of this is easy.

Left unchecked, Varroa mite infestations normally peak in the fall, when mite numbers continue to grow, just as a honey bee colony reduces its bee population in preparation for winter. In other words, the ratio of mites to bees increases. The colony now likely succumbs to one or more viruses. As its mite-ridden bee population dwindles, opportunistic bees from neighboring hives raid the collapsing colony, feasting on honey and picking up hitchhiking mites that they bring back to their own hive.

You as a fledgling beekeeper will be forced to make a conscious or unconscious choice. Do nothing to reduce the mite population in your hives, and your bees will likely not make it through their first winter.   Even if your colony is headed by an extraordinary queen who imparts above-average mite resistance to her workers, its being “Varroa bombed” by collapsing mite-ridden hives in your neighborhood can and likely will, seal its doom.

Your other option is to use formic and oxalic acids, thymol, hops derivatives, synthetic chemicals, or even mechanical means to kill mites. It can be a messy business. Some treatments are more effective than others. Some work only at certain times of the year. You need to be careful not to contaminate the honey. All of this costs time and money.

You can search for queens that impart a level of mite resistance to their offspring, but I recommend you get a little experience before you tackle this. The thing to remember is that sooner, not later,  you will surely face serious challenges from mites, and a failure on your part to act on behalf of your bees can spell curtains for the innocent creatures in your charge. Some people consider this animal abuse.

You don’t like the sound of this, do you? I don’t like it either. If your passion to keep bees is anything short of red-hot, and you still want to help pollinators, maybe there’s a better path for you. You could plant a bee-friendly garden, or advocate for stronger pesticide restrictions, or join an environmental organization devoted to pollinators, like the Xerces Society. You can help bees without owning any.

For those of you still determined to keep bees there is, however, some good news. If you’re willing to commit yourself, you can thread the needle and learn to keep your bees alive. It will be more work than you ever imagined. But if — and only if —  you have the fire in your belly, you can do it, and CSBA can help.

If you’re easily discouraged, you’ll never make it, because failure is part of the learning curve. But if you’re willing to learn, if you’re willing to fall flat on your face and get up and have another go, if bees haunt your daydreams, if you put your heart and soul into this noble craft, you might find you have the right stuff.

The world doesn’t need more beekeepers. It needs more good ones.

The easy way to collect clean propolis is to use a propolis trap late in the summer, when bees are already wanting to propolize everything in sight. It looks a lot like a a queen excluder (but different), and fits on top of the uppermost hive body. Once the bees get it filled with propolis, the trap goes in the freezer to stiffen. Frozen propolis is brittle, and a couple of twists to the trap yield a nice little pile of small propolis “sticks”. I just tried one for the first time this year.  Works great!

I also end up at the end of the year with a fist-sized or larger glob of propolis scrapings. These aren’t so clean.  They contain wood chips, bee legs, beeswax, etc. This glob goes in the freezer, too, along with either a dedicated coffee grinder, or a mortar and pestle. Once well frozen, the propolis and tools come out of the freezer. Break off a small chunk of propolis, and put the rest back in the freezer. Just a couple of minutes in the mortar and pestle will yield a nice pile of propolis dust, up to pin head size. The finer you can get it, the cleaner you will be able to get it, and the more good stuff the alcohol will be able to pull out for the tincture. If you are using a coffee grinder, be aware that grinding for too long will heat the propolis, and make it very sticky.

Place the ground propolis into a square of cloth or paint filter. This gives you something to lift it out of the water with. Submerge in cool water, deep enough to allow the junk to float up. It will take a couple of minutes of stirring to get everything wet enough to work properly.  Skim the junk off the surface of the water, and lift your now-clean propolis out using the square of cloth. Allow to drip, and air dry.

Propolis powder mixed with honey, at a ratio of 3 parts propolis to 7 parts of honey, is a great wound dressing. Supposedly, it will even heal a wound that already has gangrene. I used a 1:2 ratio of propolis/honey for the honey facial demonstation.

To make a tincture, add 1 part of propolis to 5 parts of oil, alcohol (like vodka), or water, depending on the intended use. Never use rubbing alcohol, which is poisonous. Shake the liquid and propolis jar twice daily for a minimum of two weeks, and strain. Alcohol does the best job of pulling the good stuff out of the propolis, and into the liquid for use. Alcohol, water, and oil all pull different constituents from the propolis. For a great mouthwash, you’d use a water tincture. For a body cream, an oil tincture would be used. Alcohol propolis tincture works well for use as a medicinal.  Propolis is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and even anti-tumoral in some instances.

Dangers of spring

When our bees survive through Feb. we breathe a sigh of relief, but the biggest danger of spring is really only beginning. Honey bees use 1/3 of their honey stores during the winter, and the other 2/3rds are used after brood rearing really begins in earnest. Spring pollen flows trigger the bees to raise a lot more brood, but are often not accompanied by nectar flows. The brood nest grows to a much larger size, and must be maintained at 96 degrees which is very energy intensive.

It is very important to make sure that your bees have enough food in March and April. Feeding sugar water during freezing temperatures can be tricky. I’ve read (but not experienced) that a quart jar with holes in the lid, and inverted over the cluster will be kept from freezing by the heat from the bees. I’ve also heard of bees being drowned this way. With my own eyes I have seen hive top feeders produce so much  condensation that they wet the bees and kill the colony.

One solution is to feed sugar patties. Keep in mind that bees can’t use dry sugar, it needs to be damp, or they need a water source. Spritzing unused sugar patties with a spray bottle of water can sometimes allow the bees access to this important safety measure.

I opened one of my hives a couple of weeks ago. They started the winter with 2 deeps and a full medium. The bees were in the top box, and without removing frames, it looked like all the honey comb in that box was uncapped. So much for the 1/3rds thing. Guidelines are good, but there are always exceptions. Luckily, I had saved a full honey super, and so could just put it on.

Always remember, when checking on bees’ stores in spring, don’t disturb the cluster when it is below 55 degrees, and don’t break propolis seals until then.  If it was very warm, or very cold all winter, the bees will have used more honey than usual. Be prepared and save your bees.

Happy Beeks!
I am sure you have all seen that your bees will fly if it is over 45 degrees. That is pretty amazing, since they can’t even move out of the cluster unless it is at least 40 degrees. These bee biology facts help us understand what we can do for our bees, and when. Since we know they can’t move at all unless it is at least 40′, we know that they need it to warm up a bit before they can move to full honey combs. For this reason, I usually wrap my hives with tar paper during (actual) winters. It looks like this might be one. These days that have warm temps are the perfect time to do that. I just staple the tar paper right to the hive body; langstroth, top bar, and long hive alike, making sure to leave the ventilation holes open. We want to do this on a nice day, so that if our disturbance makes the bees leave the cluster, they’ll be able to get back up before being paralyzed by the cold. Same thing with adding sugar patties. The one in the photo has pollen patty, too. Pollen is better kept off until later. Bee candy or sugar on newspaper is perfect for right now. You can see that there is no hardware cloth or support under my bee candy. I mixed it fairly dry, and let it set in my sunny window for a few days until it was self-supporting. I used 10 lbs of sugar to 3/4 cup of water, and used the bread hooks of my stand mixer to help. There is a nice article at https://honeybeesuite.com/no-cook-candy-board-recipe-for-feeding-winter-bees/ for those of you who want to read more. Make good use of these nice days! T


My mother was right, you should always wear clean underwear….This was my husband’s comment after our latest beekeeping adventure.  According to our friend Bruce, sometimes you need kevlar underwear, and maybe that would have helped in this instance, but only if Neil had been wearing the underwear on his head.
The bees in my Aztec yard were particularly pissy the other day.  I think because the alfalfa has been cut, and there is a dearth for them now.  I got stung three times just walking through the yard.  There are times that bees stings are not something to be trifled with.  Neil received 4 stings to his head and face, and he couldn’t get the stingers out, so got ALL the venom.  He usually has a strong local reaction, like, the hand that got stung swells up huge and stays that way for 3 days.  That is not what you need clean underwear for.
This time, he started getting hives all over the arm that had a bee sting on the hand.  Then,  hives on the other arm, too.  When there is a reaction in an area not stung, it is time to go the the Urgent Care unit.  He was beet red, boots to hat, and said that his ears were burning.  All of these are clues to an allergic reaction.
We went to urgent care, where they viewed his underwear while giving him two shots that he was very happy to receive.  This is not a place to mess around and wait to see.  Go to urgent care!
It is very common for relatives of beekeepers to develop an allergy to bee venom, since they come in contact with the venom on bee suits and equipment in doses too small to engender resistance.  It is very wise for every beekeeper to have an epi-pen on hand.  I have been a beekeeper for 12 years now, and just now saw this reaction in my mate.
The fact that Neil’s hives were going away even before he got his shots makes me pretty sure that he just needs more bee venom.  Many beekeepers tell me that they have worsening reactions in the 2nd and 3rd years of beekeeping.  My reply is always that they are not getting enough stings.  Another good reason to work bare-handed!  Develop resistance, not allergic reaction, but have an epi-pen on hand in case you are the one in a thousand, or your husband is.
My plan now, always wear clean underwear when beekeeping, and give my husband micro-stings once a week.  He says “NO!” I guess I’ll be sneaking up on him…  T